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Period c. -2000 YP
Spoken in SW Tuysáfa
Total speakers unknown
Writing system none
Classification Mbingmik languages
Basic word order SVO
Morphology mostly isolating
Alignment split-ergative
Created by Cedh

Proto-Mbingmik is the last common ancestor of the Mbingmik languages of southwestern Tuysáfa. It was probably spoken around -2000 YP north of the mountains along the southern coast of the continent, and broke up into daughterlangs when its speakers were displaced by the same Wendoth invasion that also triggered the migration of the speakers of Isles languages. Instead of escaping over the sea though, the Mbingmik peoples crossed the mountains, ending up in several different valleys on the southern coast. There is also at least one Mbingmik language spoken on the island of Ttiruku.

The Mbingmik languages are generally thought to belong to the Mediundic language phylum, associated with the second wave of human migration to Tuysáfa. Close relatives of Proto-Mbingmik are not currently known; however, based on certain grammatical similarities and even a few apparently regular sound correspondences, scholars have proposed a distant connection to the Wendoth languages in a putative West Tuysáfa stock.

See also: the lexicon.



labial coronal palatal velar glottal
stop aspirated
tenuis p t c k ʔ
voiced b d
prenasalized mb nd ɲɟ ŋg
nasal m n ɲ ŋ
fricative voiceless θ · s h
voiced v
approximant liquid l · ɾ
semivowel w j
  • The exact phonetic nature of the "voiced stops" /b d/ is uncertain. In some daughterlanguages, they are associated with varying types of glottalized phonation, which suggests that they may have been pronounced as creaky-voiced or implosivized in the proto-language. This is supported by the fact that /ʔ/ sometimes patterns as one would expect from the missing segment */g/, hinting at a possible pre-Proto-Mbingmik sound change *ɠ > ʔ. In spite of this evidence, the simple standard symbols for voiced plosives <b d> will be used in this document for the segments in question.
  • The consonants /pʰ tʰ cʰ kʰ ɲɟ ŋg ɲ ɾ j/ will be written as <ph th ch kh ńj ŋg ń r y> in this document outside of the phonology section.
  • All other consonants will be written as in the above table; the transcription therefore includes the non-roman letters <ʔ ŋ θ>.


front central back
close i · iː ɨ · ɨː u · uː
close-mid e · eː ə o · oː
open-mid ɛ · ɛː ɔ · ɔː
open a · aː
  • There are also seven diphthongs:
    • Closing diphthongs: /ai̯ au̯/ (realized as [ae̯ ao̯] in open syllables, and as [æi̯ ɔu̯] before nasals and prenasalized consonants)
    • Centering diphthongs: /iə̯ ɨə̯ uə̯ ɛə̯ ɔə̯/
  • All short vowels will be written as in the above table: <i e ɛ ɨ ə a u o ɔ>
  • Outside of the phonology section, long vowels will be written with double graphemes: <ii ee ɛɛ ɨɨ aa uu oo ɔɔ>
  • The closing diphthongs will be written as <ae ao>, and the centering diphthongs will be written as <ie ɨə uo ea oa>.

Root structure

Main root syllables have the shape C₁(C₂)(w,j)V(C₃), where C₁ may be any single consonant, and C₃ may be any of /p t c k ʔ h m n ɲ ŋ l w j/. (Onset clusters are described below.) Of the coda consonants, the plosives /p t c k ʔ/ may not appear after the closing diphthongs /ai̯ au̯/, the glottal fricative /h/ may appear only after the short vowel /ə/ and after the centering diphthongs /iə̯ ɨə̯ uə̯ ɛə̯ ɔə̯/, the liquid /l/ may appear only after the short vowels /i ɛ ɨ a u ɔ/ and after the centering diphthongs /iə̯ ɨə̯ uə̯ ɛə̯ ɔə̯/, and the glides /j w/ may appear only after the short vowels /i ə u/, after the long vowels /iː eː ɛː ɨː aː ɔː oː uː/, and after the centering diphthongs /iə̯ ɨə̯ uə̯ ɛə̯ ɔə̯/. In content words, the short vowels /i e ɛ ɨ ə a u o ɔ/ occur only in closed syllables (i.e. before a coda consonant).

A main syllable may optionally be preceded by a minor syllable of the shape , where C is any of /p t c k b d mb nd ɲɟ ŋg ʔ s m n/ (note that /ʔ/ is not written in this position). In derived words, minor syllables may also contain the short vowels /i ɛ a u ɔ/ (although /ə/ is still most frequent), and the onset consonants /r l/ as well as complex onsets ending in one of the latter.

In medial position in derived words, syllable onsets beginning with a single non-prenasalised consonant may also be preceded by coda /ʔ s r l/.

The following table lists all possible syllable-initial two- and three-term consonant clusters.

p t c k b d ʔ m n ɲ ŋ s θ h r l j w pj pw tj tw kj kw sj sw θj θw mj mw nw ŋw
pʰt pʰc pʰk pʰn pʰɲ pʰŋ pʰr pʰl pʰtj pʰtw pʰkj pʰkw pʰnw pʰŋw
tʰp tʰk tʰm tʰn tʰŋ tʰr tʰl tʰpj tʰpw tʰkj tʰkw tʰmj tʰmw tʰnw tʰŋw
cʰp cʰk cʰm cʰn cʰŋ cʰr cʰpj cʰpw cʰkj cʰkw cʰmj cʰmw cʰnw cʰŋw
kʰp kʰt kʰc kʰm kʰn kʰɲ kʰŋ kʰr kʰl kʰpj kʰpw kʰtj kʰtw kʰmj kʰmw kʰnw kʰŋw
p pd ps (pʰ) pj pw psj psw
t tb ts (tʰ) tj tw tsj tsw
c cb (cʰ)
k kb kd ks (kʰ) kj kw ksj ksw
mb mbs mbr mbl mbj mbw
nd nds ndr ndl ndj ndw
ɲɟ ɲɟr
ŋg ŋgs ŋgr ŋgl ŋgj ŋgw
m mp mt (mb) md mn mr ml mj mw mpj mpw mtj mtw mnw
n nt (nd) nm nw ntj ntw nmj nmw
ɲ ɲc (ɲɟ)
ŋ ŋt ŋk (ŋg) ŋm ŋr ŋl ŋw ŋkj ŋkw ŋmj ŋmw
s sp st sk sb sd sm sn sr sl sj sw spj spw stj stw skj skw sθj sθw smj smw snw sŋw
θ θm θn θj θw θmj θmw θnw
h hm hn hr hl hmj hmw hnw hŋw
  • /mbs nds ŋgs/ were almost certainly pronounced [mbz ndz ŋɡz].
  • Sounds written in (gray) denote earlier clusters that were, at the Proto-Mbingmik stage, phonetically indistinguishable from unitary phonemes, but could sometimes be split up by derivational infixes.
  • Clusters ending in /j/ did not occur before /i iː iə̯/, and clusters ending in /w/ did not occur before /u uː uə̯/


Proto-Mbingmik was a mostly isolating language with very little inflectional morphology. However, an extensive system of derivational operations can be reconstructed, which made use mainly of pre- and infixes, but occasionally also of consonant alternations and vowel ablaut.


Case particles

The role of noun phrases within a sentence was indicated with case particles, which were typically the last word in their NP. At the Proto-Mbingmik stage, these particles were on the verge of becoming cliticised; in some daughter languages they have become true suffixes, but in others they have retained a freer role or have been dropped entirely.

  • nominative/absolutive (subject): Ø
  • accusative (transitive patient): *ʔak
  • ergative (transitive agent): *θəy
  • dative (recipient, target): *məw
  • ablative (source, origin): *tɨʔ


Number marking on nouns appears to have been optional. Also, what is traditionally called the "plural" seems to have been more of a collective, which was possibly derivational. It was formed via reduplication of the initial CV portion of the stem, with deaspiration of aspirates and reduction of the vowel, usually to . If the original vowel was one of *i ii ie, stem-initial velars would show up as palatals in the reduplicated syllable. After velar and labial consonants, *u uu uo were reduced to *u rather than , and after dental and palatal consonants *i ii ie were reduced to *i. If the stem began with an onset cluster, it appears that only the first consonant was copied to the reduplicated syllable, but cluster-final *j w still colored the reduplicated vowel to *i u.


  • *mbiim ‘woman’ → *mbəmbiim ‘a group of women’
  • *khiew ‘man’ → *cəkhiew ‘a group of men’
  • *ndrɛŋ ‘sibling’ → *ndəndrɛŋ ‘siblings’
  • *phum ‘ear’ → *puphum ‘pair of ears’
  • *həkaay ‘mountain’ → *həhkaay ‘mountain range’ (note the contraction of underlying *həhə-)

A second, full type of reduplication, which doubled the entire noun, could be employed to form an exhaustive number (i.e. 'all of X').

  • *khiew ‘man’ → *khiew-khiew ‘all the men (in the village)’
  • *ndrɛŋ ‘sibling’ → *ndrɛŋ-ndrɛŋ ‘all one's relatives’
  • *khnae ‘claw’ → *khnae-khnae ‘all the claws (on a paw)’

Some nouns were inherently collective. For these, full reduplication appears to have carried a meaning of 'multiple collections of X', and singulatives could be formed with the prefixes *mə(n)- (probably related to the numeral *men ‘one’) or *s(ə)-, which seem to have been interchangeable. In words that had a stressed syllable beginning with a plosive and preceded by a minor syllable, *s(ə)- became an infix *<s>.

  • *khluo ‘people, tribe, ethnicity’ → *məŋkhluo ‘fellow tribesman’; *khluo-khluo ‘several tribes’
  • *leec ‘fire’ → *sleec ‘flame’; *leec-leec ‘several fires’
  • *əpwan ‘forest’ → *əspwan ‘tree (in a forest)’; *əpwan-əpwan ‘several forests’


Personal pronouns

Proto-Mbingmik had a highly elaborate set of personal pronouns:

  • In the 1st person plural, an inclusive/exclusive distinction can be reconstructed.
  • 2nd and 3rd person singular forms referring to people distinguished gender.
  • There were separate 3rd person singular and plural pronouns for nonhuman (and in the singular also inanimate) referents.
  • All pronouns referring to human non-speakers exhibited a familiar vs. foreign distinction; in all probability the former originally referred to people from the same village or tribe as the speaker, and the latter to everyone else. There was also a 1st person plural pronoun for groups including foreigners, which did not distinguish clusivity with regard to the listener.

Unlike full nouns, Proto-Mbingmik pronouns directly inflected for case; as a result, pronominal phrases did not normally contain any additional case particles (however, case particles could be added for more precise specification of the pronoun's role). It is notable that the set of cases displayed on pronouns was different from that displayed in ordinary noun phrases, and that the etymological relationship between several of the pronoun forms can only be guessed at, which supports interpreting the pronouns as the last remnant of an earlier inflectional system.

Pronominal case marking was split-ergative: pronouns referring to humans followed nom-acc alignment, whereas nonhuman 3rd person pronouns were aligned in an erg-abs system.

There were also separate possessive pronouns; these were anaphora (i.e. "mine", "yours" etc.), not determiners ("my", "your" etc.).

    1sg     2sg 3sg 1pl 2pl 3pl
  male   female   male   female animate inanimate inclusive exclusive   human   nonhuman
nom./abs. familiar
bao sun
niiŋ          nəw
tɛɛ ksɔɔ səmbao       rəŋgaʔ
accusative familiar
duoh myun
  mbraeŋ      mbrəw
sənduoh       məŋgaʔ
ergative familiar
tiʔ ksuʔ ŋgwiʔ
oblique familiar
dum suum
ńuum        noom  
tɛɛm ksɔɔm səndum       rəŋgam
possessive familiar
thɛʔ tyun
thraeŋ       thrəw
thieʔ tyɔɔ tənduoh       təŋgaʔ

Proto-Mbingmik also had a reflexive pronoun *lɛʔ (plural *laaʔ), which was used in place of the regular non-subject 3rd person pronoun when agent and patient of the verb were identical.


‘that (nearby)’
‘that (far away)’
‘the other one’
singular plural singular plural singular plural
absolutive din dean vɨɨ vɔɔ ŋgəw ŋguo ləh
ergative ndyuʔ ndyɛʔ vuʔ vɛʔ ŋgruʔ ŋgrɛʔ luuʔ



Verbs in Proto-Mbingmik inflected only for mode (indicative vs. subjunctive). The subjunctive was used for all kinds of subordination; for the majority of verbs it was formed through ablaut of the stressed vowel:

indicative   ii     ee     uu     oo     ɨɨ     ea     oa     ae     ao      i       u       e       o       ɛ       ɔ   
subjunctive ɛɛ ɛɛ ɔɔ ɔɔ aa aa aa ii uu e o ɛ ɔ a a

For verbs whose stressed syllable contained one of the remaining vowels ie ɨə uo ɛɛ ɔɔ aa a ə ɨ, the subjunctive was usually identical to the indicative.


  • *ndɨɨʔ ‘find’ → sbj *ndaaʔ
  • *kəkuuy ‘repeat’ → sbj *kəkɔɔy
  • *saa ‘finish’ → sbj *saa

A small number of verbs formed their subjunctive irregularly, often through suppletion.

Tense and aspect

A number of distinctions in tense and/or aspect could optionally be marked with adverbial particles that were placed immediately before the main verb of the clause. Some of the most common such particles were:

  • *ʔiŋ (past tense marker)
  • *kɨəh ‘and then, next, subsequently’ (consecutive)
  • *hae ‘already’




causative (verb → verb)
*tyak ‘be flat’ → *tuŋyak ‘flatten’
*phiʔ ‘come, approach’ → *puŋhiʔ ‘summon’
*cəcuup ‘know, understand’ → *cuŋcuup ‘teach’
causative (verb → verb)
*kheaŋ ‘use’ → *khreaŋ ‘prepare’
*siim ‘happen, occur’ → *sriim ‘cause, instigate’
*təphao ‘be to the north’ → *trəphao ‘go northwards’
*thməy ‘be new’ → *thrəməy ‘repair, polish’
factitive (noun/stative → verb)
*phrəw ‘path, way’ → *pəndrəw ‘clear the way; establish a trade route’
*leec ‘fire’ → *ləndeec ‘burn (intentionally); perform fire sacrifice’
*riep ‘be black’ → *rəndiep ‘paint (in dark colors)’
factitive (noun → verb)
*khic ‘blood’ → *khnic ‘shed blood’
*tien ‘flame, spark’ → *thnien ‘light a fire’
instrumental verbalizer (noun → verb)
*naay ‘mouth’ → *nisaay ‘whisper; notify’
*mbream ‘finger’ → *mbəsream ‘point at sth.’
*ńjul ‘needle’ → *ńjisul ‘sew; make clothes’
*thnɔm ‘medicine’ → *təsnɔm ‘treat a disease with medicinal herbs’
associative verbalizer (noun → verb/stative)
*phrəy ‘married couple’ → *phriey ‘marry’
*kuuc ‘fog, mist’ → *kyuuc ‘obscure, hide from view’
*thŋaay ‘day; sun’ → *tiŋaay ‘be bright, be well-lit’
attributive verbalizer (noun → stative)
*həkaay ‘mountain’ → *hilkaay ‘be high; be steep’
*khnae ‘claw; blade’ → *kilnae ‘be sharp; be deadly’
*diŋ ‘family’ → *diliŋ ‘be related to’
attributive/inceptive (verb → stative)
*ŋim ‘die’ → *ŋglim ‘be dying’
attributive (verb → stative)
*kheaŋ ‘use’ → *kamneaŋ ‘be useful, be suitable’
*yəw ‘want, desire’ → *yamnəw ‘be desirable’
*mal ‘feel, sense, know intuitively’ → *mamnal ‘be alert, be watchful’
attributive (verb → stative)
*baem ‘admire’ → *kbaem ‘be impressive’
*liiń ‘turn, revolve’ → *khliiń ‘be busy; continue’
unergative/capabilitative (verb → verb/stative)
*chuu ‘succeed, accomplish’ → *chnuu ‘be successful’
*cəcuup ‘know, understand’ → *chnucuup ‘be wise’
maybe also: *tean ‘give’ → *thnuon 'provide, offer’
unaccusative/resultative (verb → verb/stative)
*riem ‘give’ → *muʔriem ‘receive’
*myuuk ‘form, shape, create’ → *muʔmyuuk ‘resemble, be shaped like’
*əmɛɛ ‘hold, bring’ → *muymɛɛ ‘be carried; result from’
attenuative (verb → verb)
*mbaay ‘say privately, confide’ → *mimbaay ‘whisper’
intensive/resultative (verb/stative → verb/stative)
*cuup ‘hear’ → *cəcuup ‘know, understand’
*ŋgiik ‘be within’ → *ńjəŋgiik ‘be in the middle of’
*kwip ‘make, create’ → *kukwip ‘work intensively on sth.; refine, improve’
iterative (verb/stative → verb/stative)
*kuuy ‘do’ → *kəkuuy ‘repeat, do sth. over and over’
*ndiŋ ‘say’ → *ndəndiŋ ‘babble, talk too much’
*ńjal ‘slap’ → *ńjəńjal ‘flap the wings’
*liet ‘be forced to move’ → *ləliet ‘tremble’
negative/opposite (verb → verb)
*ńɛɛ ‘agree with, be of the same opinion as’ → *kuńɛɛ ‘disagree with, clash with, be at odds with’


abstraction (stative → noun)
*chaoŋ ‘be young’ → *chrəmaoŋ ‘youth, childhood’
*suu ‘exist, be true’ → *srəmuu ‘truth’
*khiey ‘be dry’ → *khrəmiey ‘drought’
*ŋədiim ‘be weak’ → *ŋgrəndiim ‘weakness, flaw’
abstraction (verb/stative → noun)
*khruc ‘be angry’ → *kathruc ‘anger’
*khmuun ‘be happy’ → *kaʔmuun ‘happiness’
*chŋaay ‘be far away’ → *caʔŋaay ‘distance’
*siiw ‘take (a time); span (a length)’ → *satiiw ‘duration; length’
abstraction/prototype (verb → noun)
*phrəw ‘know (people); be friends with’ → *pəŋgrəw ‘friendship’
*ndliiŋ ‘remember’ → *ndəŋgliiŋ ‘memory; myth’
*siim ‘happen, occur’ → *sŋiim ‘action, event, occasion, circumstances’
subject/agent nominalizer (verb/stative → noun)
*suʔ ‘say publicly, announce, declare’ → *styuʔ ‘orator; herald’
*khen ‘see’ → *khtyen ‘guard’
inanimate patient nominalizer (verb → noun)
*mbaay ‘say privately, confide’ → *mburaay ‘secret’
associated person (verb/noun → noun)
*cuol ‘be acquainted with’ → *cuńcuol ‘acquaintance’
*yɔɔk ‘follow’ → *cumyɔɔk ‘guide, scout’
*mae ‘boat’ → *cumae ‘boat traveller’
associative nominalizer (verb/stative → noun)
*muu ‘wrap, roll up’ → *pəmuu ‘roll, bundle, package’
*hɛɛt ‘be distinct’ → *phɛɛt ‘type, kind, species’
*taeń ‘be torn into pieces’ → *phtaeń ‘rags, tattered garments’
instrumental nominalizer (verb → noun)
*nal ‘forecast, predict’ → *bənal ‘omen’
*reeŋ ‘block, obstruct’ → *bareeŋ ‘wall, fence, shield’
instrumental nominalizer (verb → noun)
*nuk ‘reach, arrive at’ → *ndluk ‘path, way’
*cuoŋ ‘tie, tighten’ → *chluoŋ ‘rope’
*kwip ‘make, create’ → *khlɨɨp ‘tool’
augmentative/honorific (noun → noun)
*chaay ‘dog’ → *chkaay ‘large dog; alpha dog (in a pack)’
*ńjul ‘needle’ → *ńjəkul ‘spear’
*twɛɛ ‘gate, entrance’ → *thkwɛɛ ‘main gate’
diminutive/familiarizer (noun → noun)
*ndrɛŋ ‘sibling, cousin’ → *mindrɛŋ ‘youngest brother or sister, nesthäkchen’
*tuoy ‘sun’ → *mtuoy ‘torch’


general adverbializer (verb → adverb)
*mbriw ‘be polite, show respect to’ → *nəmbriw ‘politely’